A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of accompanying Nana Obuobi I, Queen Mother of Meyera, Greater Accra, to her organised event of invited speakers to give a talk to the local community of Amasaman and neighbouring towns of Ga West district on How to prevent unsafe abortion.
The talk on abortion-related maternal morbidity and mortality in Ghana was sponsored by non-profit organisation IPAS Ghana, through NGO Hope for Future Generations who’s representative was present; Project Co-ordinator Mildred Komey.
IPAS Ghana provided funding for a selected number of Queenmothers from Greater Accra, Eastern and Ashanti regions to provide workshops on such subjects in a grave effort to considerably reduce mortality rates which are staggeringly high in these regions. Queenmothers have a considerable amount of influence in their communities, hence their being a wise choice for dissemination of information on the topic.
As we entered the Methodist church hall were the event would take place, a few early birds sat patiently waiting, and I was left wondering if the hall with a capacity for at least 100 people would fill up. Just how important was Nana Obuobi’s message to the local community? The proof would be in the result of getting a full house.
Maternal morbidity is on the rise and much of it is due to the unsafe abortion methods local communities are accustomed to. Nana Obuobi’s message to draw in an audience was simple yet direct; it could be your own daughters, sisters or school friends being affected. This issue relates to both men and women. It was very good to see young men in the audience enthusiastic to participate.
And thankfully, despite a late start, the community came out in their numbers. The target capacity of 100 people of the local community was exceeded. Roughly 150 people consisting of mothers with their babies, school children and groups, young men and local workers were amongst the audience attentively listening to what had to be said about the serious issue of our young girls dying at an alarming rate.
Nana Obuobi I gave the welcome address and explained abortion and unsafe abortion to the audience whilst emphasising the magnitude of abortions in Africa, Ghana and their own communities in Ga West municipality.
“Teenage pregnancies and abortion related maternal morbidity and mortality are very prevalent in our communities and it is the biggest neglected tragedies. Most of these deaths are preventable and we need to take affirmative action and show compassion and provide safe abortion care including post comprehensive abortion.”
Nana told the audience.
Maternal mortality and maternal mobility in Ghana has been a concern to the Government and many NGO’s in the country. The Millennium Development Goal highlighted an emphasis on this matter, the target being 2015 to witness a dramatic decline in the current high rates across Africa; Ghana in particular.
One of the NGO’s making a brave effort towards this target is IPAS Ghana. They provided training to highly motivated Queenmothers who shared the same concern to help create awareness and educate their communities.
“We Queenmothers have been requested to disseminate the information given to us, to our people in our various communities in order for them to be aware of what is happening in Ghana and the world at large.”
Nana Oboubi I told me.
A role play by local drama group ATAC (Act To Achieve A Change) engaged the audience visually and brought home the sad reality; young girls are dying at an alarming rate because they are putting their hopes in various dangerous concoctions of ‘home-made’ abortion.
Nurse Fati Asigri from Amasaman Health Centre spoke to encourage the audience to be knowledgeable about the safe abortion methods offered by local hospitals. She also spoke about family planning and how the service can help women from getting unwanted pregnancies.
Nurse Fati, who the audience addressed as Aunty Fati clearly answered the questions from audience in both english and twi. Another nurse was at hand to translate into Ga. Some questions included worrisome concerns including myths and “hear-say” about family planning methods being irreversible and concerns about confidentiality. Aunty Fati clarified that local hospitals offer a variety of family planning methods to suit the individual in addition to confidential advice.
There was also a strong emphasis on the use of condoms to avoid unwanted pregnancies. I was really impressed to see that the local young men had theirs handy as they waved them to the audience as proof that they are at least aware they should be strapping it on.
Mildred Komey from Hope for Future Generation gave a closing speech about the NGO’s activities. She said their focus was on young females, health and education. Hence the well thought out collaboration which coincides with the talk on female mortality. Her parting words again, placing strong emphasis on the importance of using a condom as she urged women, were;
“If your man says he doesn’t know how to wear a condom – you have to strap it on for him!”
Naturally she won the audience over with her closing words. Basically there is no excuse for not using a condom!
It’s evident that such workshops make a big difference in communities were there is a lack of resources. The participants expressed their zeal to pass on what they had learnt to their peers and community members who were absent.
In my opinion, such workshops should be held more regularly and I urge funders to expand budgets to increase participation as well as greatly improve the workshops. I saw first-hand how much effort goes into preparing such workshops and I commend Nana Obuobi, other Queenmothers, Cheifs and all those involved for their efforts.
Nana Obuobi is also president for Ga West Queenmothers Association.
Hope for Future Generations (HFFG) www.hffg.org